Hello, pet parents! Today, I think we should talk about a syndrome that affects dogs more than cats, known as chronic hepatitis. It’s potentially deadly, sometimes quite difficult to spot (especially in the early stages), and might be caused by the food you’re serving up for your four-legged friends.

Let’s dive right in.

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  1. Types of Hepatitis in Dogs
  2. How Do Dogs Get Hepatitis
  3. Symptoms of Hepatitis in Dogs
  4. Treatment for Hepatitis in Dogs
  5. Preventing Hepatitis in Dogs
  6. Conclusion

Types of Hepatitis in Dogs

Chronic hepatitis is technically a combination of issues that get progressively more severe: inflammation of the liver, fibrosis, death of liver cells (necrosis), and other liver issues. This organ plays a central role in metabolizing and processing nutrients from the food dogs eat, helping to convert nutrients into forms that can be used by the body for energy, growth, and maintenance.

The liver is also responsible for detoxifying harmful substances and drugs that enter the dog's body. It turns the toxic substances into less harmful forms, which are then removed from the body via urination or defecation.

There are two types of hepatitis in dogs:

  • Acute hepatitis is a short burst of the condition, usually lasting for two to three days.
  • Chronic hepatitis is a long-term, ongoing medical condition lasting for weeks or longer.

How Do Dogs Get Hepatitis

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine study into this doggy condition are still ongoing, and the specifics behind how and why dogs get hepatitis (acute or chronic) aren’t completely understood. Chronic hepatitis is considered the most common type of canine liver disease and has several potential causes.

These include:

Some dog breeds are predisposed to liver problems and hepatitis, which means they are at a higher risk of developing them. This is due to the accumulation of copper in the liver, known as hepatic copper. It’s an essential trace element, but abnormally large amounts can lead to a whole host of problems.

High-risk breeds for chronic hepatitis include Dalmatians, Labradors, Terriers (Bedlington and West Highland White), and Dobermans. Copper toxicosis, also known as Wilson’s disease, is an inherited condition prevalent in these breeds where high amounts of copper are present in the body.

High-risk breeds should have a little extra monitoring, although it’s important to remember that all dogs can develop acute or chronic hepatitis. Thankfully, with pet technology in this modern time, you can keep an eye on your pet around the clock. An interactive, two-way camera will allow you to monitor with your ears and eyes whenever you want or need to.

Some types of dog food contain higher levels of copper (although still trace amounts), which increases the risk of hepatitis and liver issues. Studies show that the food can cause dietary-induced copper-associated hepatopathy, abbreviated to CAH, which is a general term that refers to any disease or disorder affecting the liver.

Symptoms of Hepatitis in Dogs

As previously mentioned, the liver is important because of just how many bodily functions it’s involved with. As a result, the symptoms of chronic hepatitis are often vague, non-specific, and incorrectly attributed to other minor health concerns.

If you see any of the following symptoms, either in person or on your pet camera, you should seek medical attention:

As the condition progresses, symptoms become more obvious. You may notice swelling around the abdomen, known as ascites. The swelling is caused by a buildup of fluid and can cause other, seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as shortness of breath and discomfort or pain.

Yellowing of the skin is common with liver issues, known as jaundice. You’ll likely notice this where you can see the skin, such as the gums and ears. Other, less common symptoms of chronic hepatitis in dogs include eyesight issues, increased anger or aggression, and neurological issues. In severe cases, hepatitis can cause fainting, a coma, and even (sadly) death.

It's important to note that these symptoms can be associated with several liver diseases as well as many other non-liver-related medical issues. Chronic hepatitis requires a thorough veterinary evaluation for an accurate diagnosis, and every snippet of information you provide will help to put the puzzle pieces together. Show your vet pet camera footage, all medications, and other unusual sightings or events.

Treatment for Hepatitis in Dogs

Unfortunately, chronic hepatitis in dogs isn’t easy to treat. The condition is manageable, however, but first, you must get a diagnosis. Your vet will perform a complete examination, including blood tests, urine analysis, and a liver biopsy, to determine how advanced the condition is as well as other underlying conditions.

Your vet will likely prescribe medications for your pup, such as anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressives, alongside effectively treating the underlying causes or other conditions. They will likely suggest a dietary change, too, such as changing food to a lower-copper type.

Unfortunately, studies show that chronic hepatitis in dogs is rarely completely curable, so your pooch will probably need ongoing medications, therapies, and monitoring. That doesn’t mean that they will live an unhappy, uncomfortable life; medication and other therapies help to keep symptoms at bay.

Chronic hepatitis can get to a point where emergency medical intervention is necessary, and that’s just the thing that Petcube’s Emergency Fund can help with. For less than $1 per day, you’ll get access to $3,000 of emergency medical care per year for up to six of your precious pets – and that’s not all.

Subscribing to the Emergency Fund unlocks access to veterinary assistance around the clock, right from your cell phone. A few taps and a chat are all it takes to start the process, and you’ll even get an additional 27% off the price with this link. It’s pet care but at a perfect price!

Preventing Hepatitis in Dogs

One of the first things you should check if you want to reduce the risk of your pup developing chronic hepatitis is their food. Many manufacturers do not list the trace amounts of things like copper, but the information is usually available on the website. Alternatively, you can request that information via phone or email. You can always have a chat with one of Petcube’s qualified vets, available around the clock, for food advice.

Do you have copper water pipes? If so, it’s useful to run the tap for a few seconds before filling up your dog’s water bowl. This can reduce copper intake.

It’s also a good idea to have a chat with your vet about the hepatitis vaccine, which is usually administered when your pup has canine distemper vaccinations at around seven to nine weeks of age, plus a booster four weeks later. This isn’t a one-and-done vaccine, though; your pup will need yearly vaccines to keep hepatitis at bay.


Early detection and management of chronic hepatitis are crucial for preventing further liver and organ damage. If you suspect your pup has a liver-related issue, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.

Sadly, we can’t protect our pets from every medical condition. We can prepare and be ready for it, though.

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